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Author Archives: Karen R. Long

Anisfield-Wolf -Winning Authors Nab Two Pulitzer Prizes

David W. Blight and Brent Staples -- two Anisfield-Wolf Book Award recipients – discovered this week that each had won a Pulitzer Prize.  Blight’s monumental biography, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” received the Pulitzer for history. And Staples, an editorial writer for the New York Times, has won for a series of newspaper opinion pieces. Both men will be awarded $15,000. Two more Anisfield-Wolf winners were named as Pulitzer finalists: novelist Tommy Orange, this year's fiction winner for his debut, "There There" and historian Jill Lepore, who won an Anisfield-Wolf prize in 2006, a finalist in criticism for her writing in the New Yorker. Three historians selected the Douglass biography: Annette Gordon-Reed, Tiya Miles and Marcus Rediker. Gordon-Reed, who... Read More →

Forthcoming Poetry Collection “Deluge” A Stunning Debut For Leila Chatti

Leila Chatti worked six years to create Deluge, 52 poems that the esteemed Copper Canyon Press will publish next year as her first book. Michael Wiegers, editor of the press that publishes Jericho Brown, C.D. Wright and W.S. Merwin, called Chatti in March to give her the news. “I’ve been happy-crying for the past hour driving to the prison I teach at – I’m so very, very excited to say my first book, DELUGE, is going to be published with @CopperCanyonPrs,” Chatti tweeted. “This feels like the best dream. I am so wildly grateful. Praise to God in all things.” Faith is a strand that weaves through her first two chapbooks and rises in Deluge. Chatti, 28, is the daughter of a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. When her father heard that the Copper Canyon editor -- whom his... Read More →

Zadie Smith’s “Feel Free” Honored At National Book Critics Circle Awards

Zadie Smith, best known for her piercing comic novels, has won a National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism for her essays collected in Feel Free. She extended appreciation to her husband first, with a jaunty, “Thank you so much to Nick Laird, for sharing so much with me, willingly and unwillingly, including the title of his poetry book Feel Free, which I would also like to apologize to for stealing.” The book is a lively, capacious and learned romp through five sections that explore freedom of language and thought: “In the World,” “In the Audience,” “In the Gallery,” “On the Bookshelf and “Feel Free.” Smith, a 43-year-old Londoner, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2006 for On Beauty, a witty story of an interracial family living in an American... Read More →

Poet Jericho Brown To Announce 2019 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award Winners In April

Photo Credit: Brian Cornelius Jericho Brown will announce the new class of Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners in Cleveland April 4. The charismatic and much-lauded poet, whose “The New Testament” won an Anisfield-Wolf prize four years ago, will also read from his just-publishing work “The Tradition.” The public is welcome to join him Thursday April 4 at 7 p.m. in the South Euclid/ Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.  Brown, 42, will cap the night with news of the 84th class of writers to win this year’s prize, honoring the 2018 books that best excel in confronting racism and exploring human diversity. Previous winners include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gunnar Myrdal, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Marilyn Chin, Sandra Cisneros, Margot... Read More →

Claudia Rankine On Dismantling Racism And Prepping Cleveland’s Youth For Their Future

Credit: Katie McCullough Poet Claudia Rankine, born 56 years ago in Jamaica, returned to the city of her first college teaching post to kick off a community read of her slender, seminal book, Citizen: An American Lyric. “In a sense, I am home,” she told a Cleveland audience. “My husband grew up here. My time here was very important. I met my husband at Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry and I had my very first teaching job here.” The crowd, gathered in the Parma-Snow auditorium of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, cheered this bibliophilic beginning to romance. Rankine, a Yale University professor and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, saw her first book, Nothing in Nature is Private, published in 1994 by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Filmmaker... Read More →

Author Claudia Rankine Brings “Citizen” To Cleveland January 23

Claudia Rankine and her “slender, musical book that arrives like a thunderclap” are coming to Cleveland, the first major literary event of the year. Thanks to the Big Read of the National Endowment for the Arts and the moxie of the staff at Cleveland’s Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, residents of Cuyahoga County will have eight weeks to soak up the brilliance of Citizen: An American Lyric. The book, which reached the New York Times bestseller list in 2014, is “a well-timed amalgam of poetry, essays and Serena Williams analysis,” according to Boris Kachka in Vulture. It is poised to launch a thousand local conversations. “Citizen,” as critic Parul Sehgal writes, “is an anatomy of American racism in the new millennium.” Megan Thompson, special projects manager for... Read More →

10 Gems From 2018 That Deserve A Spot On Your 2019 Reading List

As we bid adieu to 2018, allow us to shine a last, lingering reading light on ten highlights: the year’s titles from Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners.  It should surprise no one that several are already acclaimed as the best-of-the-year. All are worth reading. “American Histories: Stories” by John Edgar Wideman  In the latest literary stroke from an American master, these 21 short stories “are linked by astringent wit, audacious invention and a dry sensibility,” according to one critic. Another calls them “irresistible” and “profoundly moving.” The first, “JB & FD” imagines conversations between John Brown and Frederick Douglass. Another tale takes up with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Still another, “Williamsburg Bridge,” rests with a man contemplating... Read More →

Jesmyn Ward On The Politics Of Being A Southern Writer

When Jesmyn Ward took the stage with Ayana Mathis, each novelist glanced around the warm, lush Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland and toward the hundreds of faces turned in their direction. “Here we are,” said Mathis, “two black women on a stage, two writers able to talk with each other; it’s really a beautiful thing.” Bathed in applause, Mathis acknowledged that this wasn’t their first public duet. When contacted about staging a conversation, Ward, winner of this year’s Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction, requested Mathis, whose debut novel, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” garnered an Oprah Book Club selection in 2012.   Seated comfortably, each in boots and black trousers, the pair gave an intimate master class in the craft of fiction, part of the Skirball... Read More →

Laird Hunt’s Latest Novel Is A Stunning Mystery, Setting Readers Up For A Harrowing Ride

The new novel from Laird Hunt, “In the House in the Dark of the Woods,” has the feel of a hymnal. It is palm sized and red, and it contains a story nestled in the Puritan Colonial era. Hunt, 50, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2013 for “Kind One,” a haunting Civil War novel inspired by a short passage in Edward P. Jones’ masterpiece “The Known World.” Hunt is drawn to fable and journeys and psychological complexity. The new novel wastes no time entering the woods. The first two sentences, in the voice of the narrator, are “I told my man I was off to pick berries and that he should watch our son for I would be gone some good while. So away I went with a basket.” The woman goes missing, and Hunt excavates the ancient fears of women who abandon their families and... Read More →

Get A Taste Of Toi Derricotte’s New Poetry Collection, “I”

Photo by Linda Koolish Poet Toi Derricotte, whose 1998 prose publication “The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey” remains a pillar of American literature, has not been idle. The University of Pittsburgh Press will bring out a new book of her poetry, “I,” in March of next year. Derricotte, 77,  an emeritus professor at the University of Pittsburgh, co-founded Cave Canem in 1996, a revolutionary space for black writers. Nikky Finney calls it  to this day “the major watering hole and air pocket for black poetry.” “The Black Notebooks,” comprised of Derricotte’s journal entries from more than 20 years, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for nonfiction in 1998. Two years ago, Derricotte introduced her friend, poet Rita Dove, in Cleveland for a celebration of 30 years of... Read More →
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